|Revisiting Acoustic Revive’s
RAS-14 AC Stabilizer
|You do voodoo? Yo, me too too!
Even in Audiophilia – that very special place –
Acoustic Revive’s Ken Ishiguro is not your
garden-variety designer. We’ve only to consider one
of this reporter’s personal favorites, the RR-77. Was
Ishiguro the first to apply a German physicist’s
mid-century findings about an aspect of Earth’s
magnetic field to an audio peripheral? I suspect so
but can’t swear to it. An RR-77 probably weights a
smidgen less than a plump slice of buttered bread,
which it almost resembles. Along with several other
AR items, this is one inscrutable I wouldn’t dream
Indeed, several of Ishiguro’s designs surpass my
understanding, but I don’t see this as a problem. In
this dodge, one asks, does the item in question make
a difference? Is the difference for the better?
Either way, one states his opinion. (See Decline
Effect farther along.)
Among Ishiguro’s unorthodoxies is a pair of RAS-14
AC Stabilizers I reported on recently feeding
Nuforce Reference 18 mono amps. I’m using them with
the monos on Ishiguro’s recommendation. This, I’m
told, is where they’d be most effective. And yet, as
a true-blue audio nerd, I cannot but wonder: if two
do good – and they certainly do! – how much more
will a third contribute to my canned world’s copper
(Briefly – I mention this in my first report – the
RAS-14 is a passive device consisting of a short
length of AR’s top speaker cable, high-quality
Oyaide fittings, and the point to all this, a
hardwood-capped carbon-fiber cylinder filled with
mineral granules that do not come in physical
contact with the current passing through.)
Why we’re all standing about in reverential
A third RAS-14 has been added to the mix. It feeds
an Integris CDP, the “P” in this instance indicating
preamp (see AurumAcoustics.com). Before I share my
thoughts, it might be helpful to list the goodies
remaining in place. Nothing has been added or
removed, nor have names been changed to protect the
• Oyaide duplex outlets. The listening room is
directly above our ancient cellar, where I’ve done
nothing special beyond having our electrician create
four dedicated lines for the audio system, two of
which are currently in use. (Currently. Get it?)
• Nordost Vishnu and Brahma power
cables and BlackNoise Extreme and 2500 line filters.
(NuForce distributes this Italian import.)
• Nordost Valhalla balanced
• AudioQuest Ground Controls for the
amps and CDP, total of three.
• Acoustic Revive quartz-based
underboards for the stacked monos, CDP and line
• The abovementioned Acoustic Revive
low-frequency pulse generator, along with AR’s disc
demagnetizer and negative-ion generator.
• NuForce Magic Cubes and speaker
• And of course the two original Acoustic Revive AC
• Finally, four wall-hung Acoustic
Revive room-treatment panels behind the low cabinet
on which the amps and CDP perch. The line filters
are on the floor.
In my first RAS-14 report I mention the short
burn-in time the Stabilizer appears to require.
While that’s true, since I submitted my comments I
detected an uptick in performance. All to the good.
The third Stabilizer serves the Integris CDP, which
remains in standby when the display is off. In the
matter of green, while the Integris’s standby mode
draws too little fuel to mark your reporter as a
carbon bigfoot, the Stabilizer matures round the
clock. In any event, based on what I was hearing, I
made my first comparisons sooner than I thought I
For evaluation purposes, I prefer recordings I’ve
been playing recently. Nothing’s quite as reliable
as familiarity. I also favor uncomplicated sounds
wherein differences are more obvious.
listens to what?!
Morton Feldman (1926-1987), my favorite American
composer, poked a stick in conventionality’s eye
with music that rarely shouts. His challenged the
establishment with near-repetitive modules of
remarkable duration. Feldman’s my early-morning
companion. I normally roll out of the sack a couple
of hours before my wife, come downstairs, fire up
the amps, turn on the negative-ion generator – it
needs a good ten-minute warm-up – feed the French
press and return to the listening room, coffee mug
in hand, to enjoy recordings least likely to disturb
Best Beloved’s repose.
Dearest reader mine, our tastes likely differ.
Doesn’t matter – the sound’s the thing. Any one of
the five CDs comprising Feldman’s six-hour-plus
Second String Quartet of 1983 can transport me
to a state I rarely revisit before the following
morning. A great recording, mode 112, features the
Flux Quartet: Tom Chiu, Cornelius Dufallo, violins;
Kenji Bunch, viola; Darrett Adkins, cello. David
Walters, Brian Brandt and Tom Chiu produced these
sessions in Wesleyan University’s Crowell Hall in
October, 2001, with David Walters as recording
engineer. SQ2 is also available as a single DVD.
I reinforced my impressions with the fourth of
Haydn’s Op.76 string quartets, likewise well
recorded: Tacet 182, with the Auryn Quartet
(Matthias Lingenfelder, Jens Oppermann, violins;
Stewart Eaton, viola; Andreas Arndt, cello). I’ve
mentioned these excellent Auryn performances before.
The producer-engineer, Andreas Spreer, uses old
Neumann mics to brilliant effect.
then, to difference
In the matter of musical textures, the third RAS-14
proves itself to be a potent contributor. In both
tests, its removal diminished my sense of a quality
I can best describe as luminosity. In Feldman’s SQ2,
a life-giving radiance envelops the strings with a
delicacy I relish. In the rather meatier Haydn
quartet, I noticed a similar sense of heightened
texture, a term I’ve been using lately to describe
several effective tweaks – so I guess that’s what I
most highly prize.
Decline Effect: the sometime fly in the ointment
A New Yorker article in the December 13, 2010 issue
discusses strange goings on in the rarefied world of
pure science. People have been discovering that the
replicability of objective, carefully controlled
experiments can taper off with repetition. What
measured as 95% certain becomes, say, 80% certain,
with further reductions down the line, sometimes to
the point of indistinguishability. Jonah Lehrer’s
“The Truth Wears Off” is a fascinating read. For me,
the Decline Effect’s applicability extends beyond
It’s been my impression – my unscientific,
subjective impression – that the phenomenon also
obtains in the likewise rarefied world of
Audiophilia. Over the course of however many months
the ‹berSpiel Ferkaktakon’s beneficence has tapered
off to nothing much. You swore you heard it. Now
you’re not sure. Gnashing of teeth, consternation.
Seriously, it’s happened to me too often to
question. Conversely, other perceptions remain in
place. I’ve been living with good two-channel sound
long enough to know that, however mysterious its
welcome ways, the RAS-14 is and will probably remain
the real and persistent deal.
two string-quartet experiments are as close to an
objective procedure as I’m capable of getting.
Further listening, absent now-it’s-in-now-it’s-out
comparisons, tell me that the system benefits in no
small way from the third Stabilizer’s addition. As
but one example, Code, a quirky, march-like,
avant-jazz disc with the Maarten Altena Ensemble
(seven instrumentalists, female vocalist), delivered
texture, dynamics, and an beautifully distributed
image the quality of which surpassed what I recall
of earlier playings (hatART 6094, released in 1991).
This holds true for enough discs for the point to be
made. For myself, I mean. I’ll spare you a
recitation of what I played and noticed. Suffice
that No. 3 seems to me as important an addition Nos.
1 and 2. The wealthiest among you might consider
planting an RAS-14 in all your IEC inlets.
If the Decline Effect kicks in I’ll let you know.
Second Opinion on the RAS-14 AC Stabilizer:
Silverton's Dead On!
truly must hereby concur with Mike Silverton's sonic
observations on this latest product from the fertile
mind of Ken Ishiguro - aka The Wizard of Odd! Having
had the rare opportunity to visit Ishiguro's home
located in Isesaki, Japan (about 100 miles north of
Tokyo, in the beautiful and mountainous Gunma
Prefecture), I only have the highest respect for
this gifted and talented designer. Isesaki's famous for its production of
raw silk so I was not surprised when shown some of
his products being built around pure silk threads.
Ishiguro spares no expense it seems. I also visited
about a half-dozen other factories where different
AR products are manufactured. Most impressive was
when I saw how Ishiguro mixed his AC noise-busting
concoction of powdered quartz,
tourmaline and green
carborundum into a fast-drying putty. This
concoction, says The Wizard of Odd is what is used
internally in his world-class Acoustic Revive RTP-2, 4
and 6 series AC conditioners respectively. Each won our
unanimous votes over the past two years as the best
available in the here and now.
So, if it works...don't fix it.
Ishiguro won't divulge what's in his
newest RAS-14 AC Stabilizer. Hmm, I can't imagine
him using a different mix. But with Ishiguro
anything's possible. So I asked if I could have
a listen and requested four of RAS-14s. In short
notice, I had them delivered to my doorstep via US
Postal mail. Designed strictly as an add-on to
co-exist between your AC cable and component, I
hooked the RAS-14s between their own wonderful
sounding Power Reference AC cords into four
components: Reimyo's CDT-777
transport and DAP-999EX DAC combo and a pair of Red
Dragon M-500 mono amps.
Initially, the sound was hard, thick,
less transparent and grittier but this was my fault
because I didn't allow for burn-in (I spell patience
N...O...W!). I gave it a good
week and over 100-hours before going back to do any
serious listening. Burn-in is a bitch if not
careful. Even after a week, I wasn't convinced my
system improved or could hear anything worthwhile
via the RAS-14s. I came back a couple
of days later at around the 150-hour mark and found
the transparency had not only returned but seemed to
elicit a clearer window into the music. Depth and
certainly improved. Cymbals took on a sweeter and
more shimmery life-like feel. The music overall sounded more
delicate and fluid. Most surprisingly, the bass from
my beloved little Revolver Music 3 monitors appeared
to gain a tad more oomph as a result of their
improved speed and tightness.
By the 250-hour mark, I realized a
great paradox: the system sounded improved...but
lost a little something. In nearly every situation
where I placed a tweak in my system as an add-on
whether between a component, cable or on the
loudspeaker itself, a loss of sparkle is the result
- sooner or later. I'm just fortunate to have
observed this ever-small (but important) decreased
sense of bloom so fast especially amongst all the
wonderful sonic improvements the RAS-14s bestowed
upon my rig.
the system could still very well be continuing to
burn-in and ultimately the bloom might return (if it
does I'll let you know). Experience tells me
otherwise. Again, the slight loss of bloom is
negligible and could be part of my paranoid thinking
(whenever I place anything in between me and
my music). Bottom line, Mike Silverton didn't experience any
perceived loss of detail or bloom while enjoying the
same level and type of sonic improvements I also am
experiencing. As in most things worthy of
recommendation, I find the RAS-14s sonic strengths
far outweigh this minor shortcoming.
Lastly, if you're asking if I would
recommend the AC RAS-14s? Unhesitatingly, the answer
would be YES. They do far more for my musical
appreciation and I strongly believe my system has
improved by virtue of their performance. Nothing's
perfect. We live in an imperfect world. Excellence
is the ideal
goal for this music lover and the Acoustic Revive
RAS-14 qualifies as just that. My 2010
Publisher's Choice Most Wanted Component
RAS-14 AC Stabilizer,
The Lotus Group